Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Can you write in cursive? March 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:17 AM

HAS CURSIVE WRITING gone the way of the typewriter, landlines, the horse and buggy?

If my conversation with a Faribault High School English teacher Thursday evening is any indication, then the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

The topic came up during parent-teacher conferences, when I viewed a test my 16-year-old, her student, had taken.

“Is he the only one who doesn’t write in cursive?” I ask, dismayed that my son has printed his answers. “This looks like a third grader’s printing.”

The teacher rifles through her stack of papers. “No,” she tells me. “All of the students print.” She even showed me a paper with printing so minuscule I would have needed a magnifying glass to read the student’s writing. Seriously.

This inability to write in cursive bothers me. What happened to penmanship?

When I was in grade school, we actually had penmanship as a subject and spent many hours perfecting our cursive letters. I remember writing rows and rows of sweeping double-humped “n’s,” triple-humped “m’s” and capital “O’s.”

The teacher isn’t surprised, nor seemingly bothered, by this lack of cursive usage. When she was in college (which wasn’t all that long ago), student papers were typed, not handwritten, she says. I get that.

But still.

“Can he write his name?” the teacher asks.

“Yes, that he can do,” I answer.

Then I wonder: What kind of generation are we raising when many young people can’t write, and probably can’t read, cursive?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Can you write in cursive?”

  1. Amy Says:

    I think that sometimes too. It was something that was practiced when I was in grade school, but I find my writing to be a combination of both. I don’t very frequently write in all printing or all cursive, but I have the ability. There are many reasons, including this one, that show how our educational system is deteriorating and held me back from being a teacher. Not that I don’t like a challenge, because I do, but I prefer challenges that I have potential of accomplishing, not continuously fighting. Great thoughts 🙂 Miss you!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for expressing your opinion on the subject of cursive writing, Amy. I, too, am sometimes dismayed by our educational system. Not that my son wasn’t taught cursive. He was, but after sixth grade, that skill vanished.

      Even as I lament my boy’s inability to write in cursive, I applaud his strong academic abilities. When it comes down to it, I would rather have him excel in learning than possess perfect cursive penmanship.

      Yet, I lament the loss of this skill among our students.

  2. Kristin Says:

    I can write in cursive but I print most of the time. In high school, a teacher taught us that it was the most efficient way to take and read notes – printing in either all lowercase or all caps – and I have ever since. I’ve been told that I have beautiful handwriting.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Kristin, this is interesting to hear that your teacher emphasized printing as the best way to take notes. That would never work for me because I print too slowly. Now cursive…

      Beautiful handwriting is an art few possess. So, good for you that you can write cursive beautifully and legibly.

      I wish more people valued handwriting.

  3. Tim Says:

    Audrey—coincidence that I should read this. I just had this same discussion with all the 5th graders in my Language Arts classes. I do some review of cursive letters almost weekly at the beginning of the year. Then, once in a great while, I require them to do one of their worksheets in cursive…THEY CURSE MY NAME!!!!! hehe That’s all I’ve really “forced” them to do.

    Anyway, this week, I was sitting in an IEP meeting with a parent and special education faculty and the mom was hoping that her child could be able to sign his name in cursive as a life skill. So, I thought EVERY KID should be able to do that!!!!!! So, I proceeded to make all of the 5th graders practice their “signature” 6 times on the “little kid” lined-paper. hehe I am also requiring them to put their SIGNATURE on ALL of their Language Arts papers for the rest of the year. If they forget, they’ll lose points. Some of them like it, others will curse me until they get to sixth grade!

    I told them that when they are young adults with a check book or credit card, I didn’t want them to be embarassed that they couldn’t “sign their name”.

    I figure in 10 years or so, they might understand why and maybe even appreciate it. What a stretch!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You’re my kind of teacher, Tim. Keep requiring those students of yours to sign their names in cursive. They WILL thank you some day. And maybe, just maybe, their parents will thank you.

      • Tim Says:

        Don’t worry, I will. And, I’ll also keep writing in cursive on my SmartBoard even though there’s always a buzz of, “What word is that?” or “What’s that say?!?”. Believe me, it’s not because of my cursive that they ask…it’s because many of them “can’t” read cursive. I say “can’t” kind of tongue-in-cheek because I believe they CAN, they just choose NOT TO or maybe if they complain loud enough, I’ll give in. Yeah, right. I’m a stubborn Kletscher!!!!!!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Kids! They always push us. Score one for cursive in your classroom!

  4. Lanae Says:

    I am happy that I don’t have to write in cursive. My penmenship is horrible, due I’m sure the my Vesta grade school teachers forcing me to write “I will not throw snowballs at the school bell” at least a 100 times. Pete P will also agree with me as he had to stay in with me more than once.

    I also like spell check on the computer, which I often forget to use. You see, all the english like spelling, puncuation went to my older sister. I still spell thing fanetitley…..!!!!!……

    So cursive I’m glad I rarely have to use it, Just to sign my name.

    Love, Lanae

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, if “some people” wouldn’t throw snowballs at the school bell, they might still have legible cursive skills.

      Minnesota Prairie Roots readers, please note that I did not correct any punctuation, spelling or capitalization in this comment from Lanae.

  5. Neil Says:

    I also encountered this cursive issue at the leadership course that I recently attended. Mind you, the classes were graduate level. During a debate in one of the classes, I wrote down some notes with ideas for rebuttal. After our opponent made his remarks, I handed my notes to my team mate who would be rebutting that portion of the debate. He looked at me with consternation and said, “I can’t use this; it’s written in cursive!”

    I was quite incredulous! I can understand not having a desire to write in cursive and even laziness in penmanship, but not even being able to read it is truly a failing of our educational system!

    With much school work being typed out on computers these days, I suspect that cursive is definitely on the fast track to the history books…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I know others may disagree with us, Neil, but I too feel students should be able to write and read cursive.

      That you discovered this lack of skill at the graduate level truly appalls me. Educators, take note.

  6. kim Says:

    Cursive writing is not a vital skill students need to achieve academic success or even pass standardized tests. However, as long as it is being covered I think expectations need to remain high. Word processing is not an excuse for illegible hand writing, it boils down to laziness and lack of motivation. Unless a student has a disability affecting their fine motor skills, I don’t see why students can’t have legible penmanship. I’m not advocating for more class time to focus on cursive writing. I’m saying, during the allocated time students work on writing, expectations should be set high and sloppy work identified as unacceptable.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Kim, thank you for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots to share your opinion on the value of cursive writing. I’m old school in that I grew up with a penmanship class during my elementary days.

      I agree that, even in these days of word processing, writing legibly in cursive remains important. And, yes, teachers should require that students write in cursive and in cursive that can be read, even if not a necessity of standardized testing.

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